Sunday, September 13, 2009

Predictably Random

Another element of my gaming experience that differs from the majority of my fellow 40-something gamers and distances me from being a traditional 'old schooler' is my love/hate relationship with Random Tables.

As a GM I love them for the potentially inspiring and sometimes ridiculous ideas they can generate but I also rarely (if not exceptionally rarely) use anything I have ever rolled 'as is'. I'll roll for magic items found in a pirate's buried treasure, get a ...*clatter*clatter*...+2 Sword and instead announce a curved blade with ancient Sea Elf runes and a hilt carved to look like a mermaid. The sword will indeed be found to be +2 but more importantly it gives a +2 bonus to resist Siren Song and allows the wielder to breath underwater.

I also find that while I like them, I never really need them. For example, I haven't rolled for a wandering monster in over 25 years. I will look over lists of monsters however and read one and say to myself, "Hey, there's a beastie I like that I haven't used in!" I just don't find myself ever wondering what I should throw at my players and when. I usually design my worlds/universes so I know what is where and why, so when the players suddenly say while waiting for their patron/contact, "We're leaving the spaceport for a few hours and going into the jungle to see if we can find that rare plant the guide told us about", I know exactly what kind of creatures, plants and people live near the trees, which ones live near the pond and so forth.

Lastly, and this is especially frustrating, I tend to roll the same numbers over and over. I know its impossible trust me but it always happens nonetheless. Case in point...

Jeff Rients recently put up two awesome random tables for Mutant Future. I was especially interested in his Optional Random Mutant Animal Stock table and I commented that if I ran a game I'd have it so everyone who wanted to play a Mutant Animal would have to roll twice and combine the two (I really like chimeras). For fun, I decided to roll up a few random creatures and make a character out of the most interesting combos. I also figured I would test my photomanipulation skills by trying to create an image of the thing I roll up.

Muskrat came up 6 times in 10 rolls. 6 out of 10! I eventually rerolled a bunch of times only to get Skunk almost as often. Parrot came up 4 times and Weasel 3. So apparently, by rolling randomly, I have created a world of Skunk-Muskrats, Parrot-Muskrats, Muskrat-Weasels, Weasel-Skunks and Skunk-Parrots! Woohoo the diversity of nature!

Random rolls are too predictable for me. When creating things out of my own head or from research I never know what I'll find.

Barking Alien

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I Feel...Young celebrates the 43rd Birthday of Star Trek (that is, 43 years since it first aired on television) with a wonderful retropective of its highs, its low and its enduring magic.

Barking Alien

31 Flavors of Vanilla

As someone who enjoys many different rules systems and game settings, I often get very frustrated with playing the same old thing again and again. While I would love to be part of a long term campaign that lasts for years and years, at this point in my life I'll be lucky if my friends and I can get together a few times a month for a whole year. If this is going to be the case (as it has been for some years now), I want to expand my gaming horizons and try some new flavors instead of the same old vanilla.

It seems however that when a campaign ends and/or something new is called for, the vast majority of players and GMs default to the same games. Usually its some incarnation of Dungeons & Dragons or the D20 System. Superheroes games see a lot of activity in the circles I travel in and I am a big fan but even then too much of a good thing can lead to boredom with the genre. World of Darkness used to be a common default but not so much for my groups over the past few years and rarely the one I find to be the most intriguing of the series, Changeling: The Dreaming.

I long for someone other then myself to run something strange, different and new. Mouse Guard, Faery's Tale Deluxe and Spirit of the Century would all be a welcome change. Alternatively, something ol' school and classic would be nice too. I haven't played Call of Cthulhu in forever. Nor have I had the opportunity to play Cyberpunk, Shadowrun (any edition) or Gamma World in recent memory.

Now, what I would like to point out if it was not particularly clear is that these are games I'd love to play. I consider myself about 90% Gamemaster and 10% Player, prefering to GM the vast majority of the time. In part, it is because I know I will run something different from time to time. This is occaisionally met with a little initial resistance. Many players my age don't want to learn a new system. A lot of my current players are GMs as well and seem to prefer games where this fact gives them an advantage during character creation (yes, for the first time in 25-30 years I have min-maxers and powergamers - slay me).

Also, many of the game ideas I enjoy and have run for full on awesome campaigns in the past are viewed as not 'serious' enough by my current peers (Faery's Tale Deluxe, Mouse Guard, Oz) without really giving them a chance. So my thinking is, if my ideas are too 'goofy' for you, please come up with something yourself. Unfortunately, at least for me, the response to that is usually, "OK. I've got an idea for D&D...". To which I often reply, "Zzzzz..."

Well, my hope is that things will improve as I try to introduce new ideas to the groups and see if anything sticks. Already a few of my players and fellow GMs are looking at games they may not have looked at before. The chance to run something truly unusual may still be a ways away but at least I can look forward to more variety in the future instead of 31 flavors of vanilla.

Barking Alien

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Beyond the Yellow Brick Road

While I am not so moved by the type of medieval fantasy role-playing so popular with the vast majority of people in the RPG hobby, I am very much enamoured with faerie folklore, fairy tales, local legends, and the like.

I would much rather play or run an RPG that emulates welsh folktales or the works of Lewis Carroll, J. K. Rowling, and T.H. White then those of Terry Goodkind, Robert Jordan, or R. A. Salvatore.

Of all the authors of the fantastic that I enjoy and of all the worlds they have envisioned, none quite compare to L. Frank Baum and Oz. I designed and ran an Oz campaign once, many, many years ago and though short lived it definitely rocked. I have since been working on a new Oz game and 20 some odd years later I am still doing so.

Luckily for me (and for any of you with a similar interest), a very dedicated and talent fellow by the name of F. Douglas Wall is currently working on and soon to finish just such a game. Entitled, Adventures in Oz, the game is not far from being released with a pretty nifty cover and some really cool ideas. If you've been itching to game somewhere over the rainbow or just want to add something different to a fantasy game you're already playing, I highly recommend checking out his blog and related sites.

Go and hear the Wizard discuss his project at the Royal Blog of Oz.

It's a Twister!

Barking Alien

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Games of Future Past

Aldrin 'Buzz' Aw, a fantastic artist and an old and dear friend from my youth, sent me this picture which he dug up while excavating some ancient tomb no doubt...

What you are seeing is the flyer advertising my high school RPG club, circa 1985-1986, as evidenced by the 'Year of the PEGASUS' logo at the top. According the accompanying text, the club played Dungeons & Dragons, Star Trek, Star Wars, Champions, James Bond, Space Opera, Marvel Super Heroes, DC Heroes, Villains & Vigilantes and Many, Many More (says it right there, I didn't make it up).

The illustration by now professional comic book artist Aldrin Aw is very cool and reminiscent of the best Jeff Dee illustrations in my personal opinion. At the time this flyer was made, Aldrin and I would've been 16-17 years old.

Wow. Let's see if I can find more neat the Wayback Machine!

Barking Alien